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Kill Out at NMSU, Sanchez Steps Up


Despite public signals that New Mexico State University was approaching a deal to retain two-year head coach Jerry Kill, this week came the dreaded announcement that Kill was leaving after a phenomenal two-year run and turnaround of the program. His contract had been set to expire in 2027.

Aggie athletics director Mario Moccia immediately tapped Tony Sanchez, current wide receivers coach, as the new head coach.

Kill, 62, announced his departure last weekend, saying, “This year has been tremendously difficult for me, and I gave it everything I had physically, mentally and emotionally. New Mexico State holds a special place in my heart as it marks the end of my journey as a head coach. While I’ll remain involved with the Aggies, I recognize the need for a head coach with a lot of energy.”

At press time, there were unconfirmed reports that Kill might take an analyst role for the Vanderbilt University Commodores in Nashville, Tenn.

The move follows two exuberant years for Aggie fans, who saw their team thrive once Kill arrived at the end of 2021, followed by the Aggies’ first 10-win season since 1960 this year. That included its first Southeastern Conference victory and a 31-10 rout against the Auburn (Ala.) Tigers in November that brought Aggies across the land to their feet.

Kill was named Conference USA Co-Coach of the Year as well as the AFCA Region 4 Coach of the Year. He is also the tenth-winningest coach in the NMSU program’s history, and brought the team to the Isleta New Mexico Bowl for its second consecutive game match, where they lost to Fresno State, 37-10.

Immediately following that match, Kill raised eyebrows by lashing out at University of New Mexico Athletic Director Eddie Nuñez, alleging the Aggies were prevented from using indoor practice facilities belonging to the rival UNM Lobos until the New Mexico Bowl intervened. The flap stemmed from an incident last summer, dubbed “Urinegate,” in which NMSU quarterback Diego Pavia was filmed relieving himself on UNM’s logo on the turf of the practice facility. The video came to light after NMSU defeated UNM, 27-17, in September.

Kill’s performance sparked speculation that recruiters were visiting to wine and dine the head coach as NMSU worked to boost Kill’s $600,000 salary enough to keep him in Las Cruces. As it happened, Kill made a different decision entirely, ending his head coaching career on a high note.

Turning to Sanchez, the university pointed to the coach’s history with the program, as a player in the 1990s and as part of Kill’s coaching staff. Previously, Sanchez had worked with Kill as an offensive analyst for Texas Christian University. He also led the University of Nevada, Las Vegas football program from 2015 to 2019 and is a past coach for Organ Mountain High School in Las Cruces.

Sanchez graduated from NMSU in 1998, where he studied family and consumer science, per the university, and served as undergraduate assistant coach for Aggies following his own time as a player. He later completed a master’s degree in special education.

For Kill’s two seasons, Sanchez was the wide receivers coach and the university pointed to his role in shaping the team’s formidable offense — crediting him for helping the wide receivers gain more than 4,000 receiving yards and “hauling in 31 of the Aggies’ 46 receiving touchdowns during the last two seasons.”

The brief era of Jerry Kill proved to be a flash of inspiration and triumph, leaving fans with disappointment and Sanchez with large shoes to fill. Additionally, several players — including Pavia — have entered the transfer portal.

NMSU Football, Tony Sanchez, Aggie's, Jerry Kill